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They're All Dowdy

Posted by Ogged
on 08.07.03

This is a great idea.

...op-ed writers should have term limits, just as politicians do. Most columnists, even excellent ones, burn out; mere mortals not of the stature of, say, Shakespeare or Goethe only have so much to offer (and of the course those geniuses weren't wasting their time writing for daily newspapers) ...
We all know what they are going to say in advance. Two sentences into the average column and it's over ...
So here's my suggestion: four years maximum and out. Give the person a Golden Parachute as we do in Hollywood, if that's necessary, but get them off the op-ed page. Let them go do something different, like writing a novel or hiking in Tibet. Anything.

It's so true about "two sentences and it's over." I've learned far more from occasional expert op-ed contributors than from regular columnists. Newspapers already have editorial boards to speak for them, so why even have regular op-ed columnists? Outside of Hendrick Hertzberg in the New Yorker, can you think of even one columnist who writes so well that you would read her/him if s/he wasn't put before you in a major paper? Let experts write on their topic of expertise; let a brilliant writer have a weekly column for a month; give a foreign op-ed writer space in your paper; there's no shortage of ways to make things interesting.


 

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But What If He's Thinking of Jesus?

Posted by Ogged
on 08.07.03
What can you say to this woman?
My husband and I have been married for eight years and have a young family. He is a wonderful husband and father. We both have stressful jobs, but he is very active in helping to raise our two children (3 and 1). I am seven months pregnant, which doesn't leave "us" a lot of free time. So in the last year or so, our sexual relationship has been OK, but not what it once was. We are a religious family, which means we abstain from pornography and even R-rated movies. We also believe that "self-gratification" is a no-no. My husband has always had a fairly strong appetite (time permitting, two or three times a day wouldn't be too much for him). As you can imagine, three babies in four years has definitely taken a toll on my time and energy so that keeping up with him is not as easy as it once was. I thought I was still fairly active, but I think that my husband's thirst isn't being quenched. I have not exactly caught him red-handed, but I woke up one night to find him fondling himself. He's also spending a lot more time in the bathroom with the door locked. I'm trying to rationalize it, calling his needs natural, realizing that he has a stressful job and maybe it's a good tension reliever for him. The bottom line, though, is that I feel he is being hypocritical about the morals we believe in (i.e., we all need to control our appetites to make us better people). I also feel he is cheating on our marriage, just as if he was with another woman. I love him so much that I want his needs to be satisfied, but I want to be the one to satisfy them. What do I do?
—Jealous Wife

 

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This Hurts Me More Than It Hurts You

Posted by Ogged
on 08.07.03

I am almost outta here. I'm leaving for a trip tomorrow morning and likely won't be near a computer until Tuesday. UnfBob, over to you.

BOB's addendum: Not me -- my low-tech, high-altitude vacation starts tomorrow. See you next Friday! Unf, don't go too crazy.


 

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Got a Minute?

Posted by Ogged
on 08.07.03

We're all busy, and so there's Busy Busy Busy.



 

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Sorry, next time

Posted by Bob
on 08.07.03

I just looked into it, and I've decided that it'd be too difficult for me to run for California governor. Not currently being a California resident, I'm not a registered member of any of the recognized parties. So I'd have to run as an independent -- which would be fine, but I'd have to collect 65-100 signatures by Saturday, and all of those signatures would have to be from California voters who aren't affiliated with any recognized party. Not to mention that I'd have to put off my camping trip, go out to California, become a resident, get registered as a voter, and scrape together $3500, also by Saturday.

No, it'll be easier to wait for Schwarzenegger's (or Coleman's) recall and run then.


 

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Come with me if you want to live.

Posted by Bob
on 08.07.03

I know everyone has read or heard this by now, but it's just so brilliantly winning that I want to see it EVERYWHERE:

In the end, it is my duty to jump into the race and to bring hope to the people.

Because (a) Mr. Olympia (1970-1975 and 1980) Arnold Schwarzenegger is not actually of "the people," (b) what "the people" need is not economic stability or political legitimacy but hope, (c) the "duty" to bring hope belongs not to elected public officials with policy expertise but to former chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and global ambassador to the Special Olympics Arnold Schwarzenegger, and (d) former San Francisco mayor and current eleven-year member of the US Senate Dianne Feinstein has never understood that the budget wars of the future will be fought by missle-wielding, shape-shifting robot assassins. Well argued, Arnold!


 

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I Remember It Like It Never Happened

Posted by Ogged
on 08.06.03

Quick, what did I post about a week ago? Can't remember, eh? KF feels your pain.

Is it just me -- am I just spectacularly forgetful -- or is there something in the sped-up twenty-first century computer-engaged television-saturated brain that accounts for this need to revisit a novel each and every time I write about or teach it? ... I have marvelled, at times, at the astonishing textual memories that a number of my senior colleagues have; they can not only quote extensively from texts in their own periods and specialties, but have impressive powers of recall of details from texts from all periods. It's a power that can quickly make me feel inadequate; I can quote the occasional line here and there, and I can remember the broad outlines of plot and character, but usually very little in the way of detail.

People in my family in their 50's and 60's can recite from memory poems they learned as children. I often can't manage even the "broad outlines of plot and character" KF recalls. Is Google sucking our brains?


 

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Mmm, Mud

Posted by Ogged
on 08.06.03

Neato keen and revolutionary? For real? Apparently. (via The Agitator)

Can anyone tell if it also works for salt water? UPDATE: The resident scientist at Chez Ogged tells me it wouldn't work for salt water. The resident scientist does not quite say that I really should have been able to figure that out.


 

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Jesus M. Christ

Posted by Ogged
on 08.06.03

Was Muhammad a Christian? More here.


(via Eve Tushnet)


 

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Serial serendipity, of sorts

Posted by Bob
on 08.06.03

I started with a frequent favorite, jill/txt, then clicked through Scott McCloud's quasiblog Morning Improv to Jen Wang, then through to this totally lovely sketchblog.


 

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Cut That Out!

Posted by Ogged
on 08.06.03
I come from a family of educators and I always did well in school. But there's some part of me that just. absolutely. hated. being in school. I read this story on year-round schooling and now I wonder, quite seriously, if I would have committed suicide if school ran all year when I was a kid. Even typing this puts me in a rage (of all the things to get angry about...) Luckily, Camille Paglia vents for me.
We are warehousing students from childhood to early adulthood, channeling them toward middle-class professional jobs that they may or may not want. Young, male, hormonally driven energy is trapped and stultified by school, with its sterile regimentation into cubical classrooms and cramped rows of seats.
The mental energy presently being recreationally diverted by teens to the Internet and to violent video games (one of the last arenas for masculine action, however imaginary) is clearly not being absorbed by school. We have a gigantic educational assembly line that coercively processes students and treats them with Ritalin or therapy if they can't sit still in the cage.
"Sit still in the cage." To my mind, that is school.

 

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What a Let-Down

Posted by Ogged
on 08.06.03
Don't blame spammers, blame suckers. (via Corante)
A security flaw at a website operated by the purveyors of penis-enlargement pills has provided the world with a depressing answer to the question: Who in their right mind would buy something from a spammer?
An order log left exposed at one of Amazing Internet Products' websites revealed that, over a four-week period, some 6,000 people responded to e-mail ads and placed orders for the company's Pinacle herbal supplement. Most customers ordered two bottles of the pills at a price of $50 per bottle.
Who are these people? Well,
Among the people who responded in July to Amazing's spam, which bore the subject line, "Make your penis HUGE," was the manager of a $6 billion mutual fund, who ordered two bottles of Pinacle to be shipped to his Park Avenue office in New York City. A restauranteur in Boulder, Colorado, requested four bottles. The president of a California firm that sells airplane parts and is active in the local Rotary Club gave out his American Express card number to pay for six bottles, or $300 worth, of Pinacle. The coach of an elementary school lacrosse club in Pennsylvania ordered four bottles of the pills.
What were they thinking? Again:
"There was a picture on the top of the page that said, 'As Seen on TV,' and I guess that made me think it was legit," said a San Diego salesman who ordered two bottles of Pinacle in early July. The man, who asked not to be named, said he has yet to receive his pills, despite the site's promise to fill the order in five days.
UPDATE: Ok, you can blame the spammers too.
In recent weeks, Bridger has published his cellphone number in thousands of junk e-mails sent all over the world. The spams invite other "real bulkers" to join him in peddling a penis-enlargement pill called Pinacle ... Legally, the man who goes by the name Bridger appears to be Davis Wolfgang Hawke, a former white-power activist who renounced his birth name, Andrew Britt Greenbaum, in 1996 at the age of 18. But in the late '90s Hawke also went by the moniker Bo Decker. At the time, he was head of the Knights of Freedom Nationalist Party, one of the fastest growing neo-Nazi groups in the United States, which he later renamed the American Nationalist Party while a student at Wofford College in South Carolina.

 

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When Lost, Ask

Posted by Ogged
on 08.06.03

Supreme Court justice Ruth Ginsburg just "admitted" that some of the justices are looking at international law in deciding cases.

"Our island or lone ranger mentality is beginning to change," Ginsburg said during a speech to the American Constitution Society, a liberal lawyers group holding its first convention.
Justices "are becoming more open to comparative and international law perspectives," said Ginsburg, who has supported a more global view of judicial decision making.

Of course, there are objections.

David Rivkin Jr., a conservative Washington attorney, said foreign trends can be helpful to legislators in setting policy, but not to judges in interpreting the U.S. Constitution.

But that objection misses the point in precisely the way Scalia missed the point in the Lawrence v. Texas sodomy decision. The Supreme Court doesn't just interpret the constitution, it first has to decide which parts of the constitution are relevant to the case at hand. In order to make that decision, it has to understand the phenomenon at issue. That understanding cannot possibly be drawn exclusively from the constitution or even from the entirety of case law: the world is simply too various and too new. Is dancing speech? Is erotic dancing speech? Well, what's dancing? And what's speech? The source of information for answers to these questions is irrelevant. These are human questions. The wonderful thing about Lawrence v. Texas was that it didn't make homosexuals a separate protected class, rather, it included homosexual relationships in the broader category of human relationships. The rights simply flow from that inclusion.


 

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A #6 and a #8, Hold the Adultery

Posted by Ogged
on 08.05.03
Did you know that most cases regarding display of the Ten Commandments on public property are being decided against display? Some people think that's a bad thing.
Rob Schenck of the National Clergy Council says the legal skirmishes are taking a toll on the nation. "The Ten Commandments are of paramount moral importance to our culture and our government. They are the rudimentary expression of right and wrong," he says. "Every time a court rules against the display of the Commandments, there is an erosion of respect for the principles espoused in the Commandments."
But Eugene Volokh, in his inimitably clear and careful way, considers whether our laws really are derived from the Commandments and how we should consider them in making law. Too bad for Mr. Schenck.

 

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Shouldn't You Already Have a Job?

Posted by Ogged
on 08.05.03

Maybe you can help me. I'll be interviewing people for an entry level position at my company soon. Do you have any interviewing tips? Questions you've asked or been asked that you thought were particularly good? Don't let me embarrass myself.


 

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We All Scream

Posted by Ogged
on 08.05.03

If I remembered my dreams, I'm afraid they would be a lot like this.



 

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I'm Not Through With That

Posted by Ogged
on 08.05.03

The Homeless Leftists have been looking over the California constitution and found that there's nothing to stop the people of California from immediately mounting a recall against the winner of the current recall. In fact, they could just have recall after recall.

But sausage is good.

MORE: via the Apostropher, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown is already threatening a "retaliatory recall" if a Republican wins. Is this America?


 

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Ok, But Why?

Posted by Ogged
on 08.05.03
Why do smart blogging females read the Corner? Is it the new Law and Order?



 

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"Academic Freedom"

Posted by Ogged
on 08.04.03
Sometimes progress is a disaster. The University of California's proposed revisions to its academic freedom policy are without question necessary and correct, but the result, I think, will be disastrous for higher education in the US.

Instituted in 1934 and aimed at blocking the spread of communist ideas, the UC's current policy encourages professors to "stick to the logic of the facts." That innocuous phrase is the bludgeon used against professors who make statements with overtly political or moral content. Once again, I cannot recommend highly enough this book on the effects of the Red Scare on academia. It's focus is philosophy departments during the McCarthy era, but its lessons are instructive for anyone in the academy. The emphasis on truth-seeking has been deadly for the strands of philosophy that seek not just to prove the truth of statements and establish the rules of those proofs, but that also inquire into the value and meaning of the terms in which philosophy—and all reflection—are conducted. That "other" practice of philosophy has been shunted into English and Comp. Lit. departments where it is alienated from its roots and practiced as a set of gestures devoid of intellectual rigor. Now, the UC has proposed changing the standards so that the distinction relevant to the evaluation of professors isn't "interested / disinterested," but "competent / incompetent." It's a step that finally removes the shackles that have bound professors (whether they were aware of their own condition or not) for almost seventy years. And it is, without a doubt, the right thing to do. But what will be the effect? The putative "disinterest" of professors insulates them from crude political pressure (or, at least, has been an effective counter to such pressure). But what little respect Americans have for academic freedom will evaporate as soon as professors "arrogate" political efficacy to themselves. This has already begun. Writing in a slightly different context, Stanley Kurtz says,

True, academic freedom and free speech must be protected. Free speech, however, is not an entitlement to a government subsidy.
This will be the line from the anti-academics: Say what we want (or hire who we want) or your funding will disappear. The most outrageous abuses of academic freedom will be used to justify the control of academic discourse by politicians acting in the name of parents. Read some the entries at a site like noindoctrination.org and you'll find stories of professors expressing political beliefs and being dismissive of dissent. That's unfortunate and reprehensible, but the organizers of the site, whose outrage seems genuine, may be surprised at the uses to which the information they've gathered will be put. For generations, academics have been removed from politics by exclusion. Soon, academics will be controlled by inclusion. At stake is the distinction between ideas and ideology. Doctrinaire charlatans are the price we pay for ideas that may change our lives: in the space we make for great ideas, charlatans sneak in. But we need that space. Measuring ideas from the academy by the standards of politics erases what is distinctively academic about them. The proper solution to the problem of charlatanism is the maintenance of transparency and the proliferation of sites like noindoctrination.org. But I won't dwell on solutions because I think, frankly, that the cause is already lost. UC's decision, while quite reasonable in the context of the academy, gives the game away to partisans. By making politics fair game for the academy, the academy has become fair game for politics. Who do you think will win?


 

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Island life

Posted by Bob
on 08.04.03

I have a great idea for a reality TV show. I know no television executives, so I pitch it directly to you, The Public. The show is called, "PhD Island."

Ten or so (somewhat attractive) men and women in their early twenties, maybe with a token older contestant, endure a numbingly drawn-out series of trials and humiliations. These include hostile dissertation-committee meetings, labyrinthine statistical methodologies, and ramen. Some contestants are eliminated along the way -- we watch their tearful exits with the comforting knowledge that by the end of the show, it is the survivors who will envy the escapees. (Ah, how Kevin must eventually have longed to switch places with Smithy!) There will be romances and sexual liasons. Alliances, rivalries, sacrifices, even a betrayal or two -- and we'll see it all! In the end, the contestants who survive the early trials must compete with each other for the ultimate prize: a tenure-track assistant professorship at a pretty-good college in a not-bad city. To win, each preens and performs before panels of disdainful judges whose own talents are ambiguous but unchallenged. One winner is chosen -- a contestant who is probably perfectly deserving, as would have been any of the others. And like being engaged to Alex Michel, the prize is actually an unspectacular one, to which everybody but the contestants is pretty ambivalent.

The winner also gets to participate in the equally cutthroat sequel, "Tenure Island." Then after that, "Lots of Big Grants Island," "Full Professor Island," "More Prestigious Institution Island," and "Avoiding Intellectual Stagnation Island."


 

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Piiiiigs of spaaaace

Posted by Bob
on 08.04.03

Three times now in the last two work days I've had to sit scrunched and twisted on a bus or train while some not-fat man occupied just one person's worth of butt space but 1.5 persons' worth of leg space. I'm sure you've all seen or experienced this: the guy -- almost always slouched and usually white (sometimes fratboy white, sometimes faux-hiphop white) -- sits with his legs so improbably widely spread that passengers on either side of him must sit with legs tightly parallel, angled, looking the prim young ladies to his disengaged, disaffected, oh-so-huge Guy. After this morning's bus ride to the train station, my left ass muscle was sore from supporting asymmetrically supporting two-thirds of my body weight. (Why didn't I just stand? Because on a crowded bus, passengers in the back should sit, if possible, to allow people standing in the front to move back. Also, I didn't want to give the guy the satisfaction.)

Space-hogging is one of the few forms of aggression to remain largely unchallenged in urban life. People who wouldn't litter, blast the bass on their car stereos, or spoon 75% of the guacamole onto their own party plates feel no qualms about spreading their legs wide into other people's space. In public spaces, space is the one shared resource -- and who commands the most of this resource? The huge. On the street, huge vehicles rule while bicyclists get honked at. On the bus, it's big men who assert wide postures.

By the way, fat and otherwise large people can also take up lots of space. I have no problem with them -- they don't take up space out of rudeness. I do think, though, that SUV culture encourages the cheesesteak-and-wings lifestyle that's in part responsible for the obesity epidemic -- and in that way it goes full circle: material consumption, calorie consumption, space consumption.


 

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Color blinders

Posted by Bob
on 08.04.03

Ward Connerly's latest strike for a colorblind society, his so-called Racial Privacy Initiative, also called the Classification by Race, Ethnicity, Color, or National Origin Initiative, goes on the California ballot this October. Simply stated, this constitutional amendment would prevent the California state government from classifying Californians on the basis of race or ethnicity. Pragmatically stated, it would prevent the state government from responding to known racial discrimination and from learning when racial discrimination is occurring. If Connerly and his supporters were really just after the dismantling of racial and ethnic preferences, I'd see it as just a disastrously misguided attempt to better society. But eliminating the government's ability to detect discrimination? No, that's beyond misguided. That's willful ignorance.


 

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